This story follows a man, named Will Andrews, as he ventures to the great beyond. As would be expected, the afterlife isn’t what traditionally comes to mind. There is a light and the story does make a subtle nod to the idea of your life flashing before your eyes, but from there, things take a turn.
It initially comes off as very Beetlejuice-esque, but the story and the circumstances differ enough that one could hardly call it a rip off. An homage? Maybe, but even that is a bit of a stretch.
On the plus side, according to this story, the afterlife is significantly brighter than what we saw in “Revival”. There is no pearly gate or fire and brimstone, but you do get a choice. You can either live your life over again with no memory of the loop or disappear completely.
While it has some similarities with Roland’s fate in the “Dark Tower” books, or even “Groundhog Day” to a lesser extent, one notable difference is that those characters retained their free will. Roland had the capability to change things with each iteration and even Murray’s character in the aforementioned film was able to do and say different things despite being stuck in the same loop. No such free will exists here, as it is explained to Andrews by a man named Harris that everything will play out exactly the same as it has so many times before.
It seems like a grim fate, but it’s clear that there’s more to the story. Harris himself notes that explaining this stuff to what he calls “pilgrims” (the newly deceased who want to know how the process works) is his afterlife. Given what happened over the course of his life, the prison factor, the repetition, and Harris’ distaste for doing it; you could easily see it as a manifestation of Hell. For that matter, Andrews is no saint either. You could also argue that his loop is a punishment for his own misdeeds. Even if there is no Heaven, per se, it’s clear that the dichotomy is a false one.
It’s possible that the other door doesn’t snuff you out, but subjects you to a more traditional afterlife. Maybe it’s a leap of faith type thing. That’s just speculation, but it would fill in that particular gap and offer a sliver of hope to this world’s canon.
The setup for the story is simple enough. It reads quickly, but despite that it does make you think. It isn’t going to rock anyone’s views on the subject of life after death, but it does make you ponder just how the system would work. Even if the story won’t stand out in the long run, it isn’t a bad result for a piece of short fiction.